The Rio Olympics are just around the corner, and yet in many ways they couldn’t be further away. In six weeks global attention will turn to Rio de Janeiro for the world’s largest sporting event; however, the city and games organizers are a long way from being ready. The hurdles facing Rio are a unique combination of logistical, natural and man-made problems.
Olympic sailing throws up a huge variety of highly competitive events over 10 separate classes, meaning there will be 10 gold medals on offer to successful countries. Events are often decided by seconds or meters, so it’s essential that the course and conditions for athletes are fair.
The biggest problem Olympic sailors will face is not security though, it is pollution.
The setting for the sailing in Rio 2016 is Guanabara Bay: a picturesque bay framed by rising rocky peaks, which is also notoriously filthy, often littered with household rubbish, and has alarmingly high levels of water pollution. The issue with dirty water extends beyond health concerns for the athletes; it has the ability to affect results. In a tightly contested race to the line for a gold medal, catching a plastic bag on a rudder could be the difference between gold and silver or bronze and no medal at all.
A cleanup operation has been slowly ongoing at Guanabara Bay. Catchment nets are in place on streams that flow into the bay, and clean-up boats, guided by helicopter, are working to collect rubbish in the vicinity. Efforts are being made, although many are concerned that they are too little too late.
Let's keep fingers firmly crossed that the sailing at Rio makes the news for all the right reasons.